food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Archive for May, 2011

May is Morel Month in Michigan!

That’s what I keep hearing, though I am yet to find a single morel in my many forays into the oak forest near the farm.  So onto some other M’s this month has offered thus far:

M is for MARKET: I worked my first farmers market as a Tantre Farm employee on Saturday, a beautiful bustling 7 hours of talking to people about food, sharing recipes, making trades with other vendors, hitting the wall, getting my second (and third) wind and doing it all over again.  Our stand was filled with produce: rhubarb, the first asparagus of the season, shiitake mushrooms, stinging nettles, mache (“corn salad”), spinach, leeks, green garlic, and herbs.  It was fun and exhausting, and I can’t wait to go back.

M is for MEAD:  I’ve started 3 one-gallon batches of mead or honey wine (Ethiopian “t’ej”).  It’s super easy to make (honey + water + natural yeasts from the air), and only mildly more difficult to refine (by creating a more controlled yeast environment or allowing the mead to age in bottles).  I’m trying 3 different types: a plain one to see how I like the flavor of the honey, one made with lemony herbs (lemon balm, lemon thyme and lemon grass), and a nettle mead.

which brings me to

M is for MEDICINAL: I wasn’t sure what other M to use for nettles (Urtica dioica), but, holy cow, May has been all about this powerful plant!  I typically go out at least twice a week with a paper bag and some scissors and snip off the tender tops of the nettles growing here there and everywhere on the farm.  If you’re gentle enough with the plant, you can avoid getting stung by their spiny stems.  If not, well, you’ve just greatly increased the circulation to whatever part of your body you touched them with.  A great source of iron, nettles are used for everything from pain relief to treating arthritic conditions.  They do bring about increased circulation and women have been known to use them to encourage menstruation and uterine toning.  But when I labeled the morning’s batch of nettle tea (I recently learned that to achieve the most benefit from most medicinal herbs, it’s important to steep them from 3 to 8 hours) “Uterine Toning Elixir,” the men on the farm were feeling a little left out.  So in considering the increased circulatory effects the herb brings about, “Nettle Tea” has since been renamed everything from “Orgasm Juice”  (OJ) to “Coitus Cordial”.  Drink with caution, ok?  You’ve been warned.  Ah, farm humor!  As far as cooking with nettles goes, they lend themselves to everything from soups to stir fries to pestos (and I think they taste like the color green).

M is for MAMA: This will come as no surprise to those of you who have met her, but my mom is the cat’s meow.  And after years of celebrating Mother’s Day from afar, I’m so happy that we got to spend the day together this year. It began with a feast of a homemade brunch that we shared with my brother Chris and his partner Marci: a shiitake green garlic nettle frittata, home fries, yogurt & pumpkin granola, a fruit salad and mimosas.  Later in the day, my mom and I spent some time in her veggie garden getting her pea trellis set up as the eager 4″ pea plants looked on.  And our collective wheels are turning on an exciting project that I offered to help my mom on- Operation Reclaim the Front Yard: killing off the lawn with a cardboard sheet mulch and planting it up with native trees, shrubs, groundcovers, edible perennials, wildflowers, the works!

And finally,

M is for MICHIGAN: I’ve been back in the state almost 2 months now, a sentence that just reads wrong no matter how many times I assure myself that it’s true.  In most ways it has flown by, though there are times when I find myself really homesick for the west coast and the people I love out there.  I knew this divide would be a tricky one, though I feel so blessed for the letters the e-mails the phone calls that keep me connected to my Washington home.  As for the MItten, most days it feels like an old t-shirt that has been worn in for years.  I love the opportunity to look at an old and familiar place with a new lens, and I’m inspired by my conversations and interactions I’ve had with people who are truly invested in making their home better.

May, you’re just getting started but you’ve been good to me so far – the later part of this month should bring with it warmer night-time temperatures, lots of transplanting and seeding of warmth-loving crops on the farm as the threat of frost starts to fade, and hopefully – finally – a handful or two of morels.

love from Michigan,

erin.

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